Unveiling the AC’s Anatomy: A DIY Approach to Basic Maintenance

Understanding the anatomy of your air conditioning system is essential for performing basic maintenance tasks effectively. However, even though you can perform certain maintenance tasks yourself, it is also important to consult your AC system’s manufacturer guidelines and consider your unit’s requirements.

According to, you can perform simple tasks such as cleaning or replacing filters, but this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get a professional maintenance check once in a while. Here is what you should know about your AC and its maintenance!

AC System Components

Becoming familiar with your AC’s components is important before you attempt maintenance on your AC system. The first component you should take note of is the evaporator coil. In mini-split air conditioners, this coil is located in the indoor unit.

The evaporator coil is located in the air handler in a central system. This is where the refrigerant will pass through. This is one of the most important components in an AC as the coil extracts the heat and cools the air down.

Some fans are usually located behind the coil. They are responsible for blowing cool air into your home. Evaporator coils need to remain clean to work properly. Even if they are protected by air filters, dust build-up can still occur, blocking the condensation drain and resulting in refrigerant leaks.

Air filters in the indoor unit must be regularly cleaned and replaced based on the manufacturer’s instructions and recommendations from your HVAC technician.

Another component in the AC is the compressor. This is the most critical component of any AC, as it is behind most processes, but its main role is to compress the refrigerant and remove heat from the indoors. In a central and split AC system, the compressor is located in the outdoor unit. Compressors vary in size, but they are all susceptible to a lack of maintenance of the condenser coils.

The condenser coil pulls heat from the refrigerant and expels it outdoors, which is the opposite function of the evaporator coil. The condenser coil is also located in the outdoor unit of your AC. Since this component opposes your evaporator coil, fans will blow heat away from it.

Next up is the thermostat, the component controlling the temperature. They have built-in temperature and humidity sensors, but smart thermostats allow you to control your AC remotely and save on energy costs. There are various other components in an AC, but these are the most important ones you should know about when performing DIY maintenance.

Safety Precautions

Before beginning any maintenance on your AC, it is important to be aware of some safety precautions. First, you should turn off the power supply to the AC unit to prevent electrical accidents.

When you perform cleaning procedures, it is important to wear protective gloves and eyewear to avoid injury or exposure to chemicals. Refer to your AC’s manufacturer guide to understand what type of chemicals you might have to deal with and how to do so properly. 

Basic AC Maintenance

One common type of AC maintenance you can do by yourself is changing the air filter. Your air filter traps dander, dust, lint, and other harmful particles, ensuring good air quality.

Usually, most air filters need to be changed once every three months, but this can vary based on what type of air filters you have and certain circumstances, such as where you live, if you have pets, the number of occupants in the home, and if there are any smokers.

Turn off your AC unit and locate the air filter. It is usually behind the return vent, but you must unhook a hatch to access it. If you notice dust buildup on the cover, use a cloth and warm water to wipe it down.

Slide out your air filter and replace it with a new one. Be sure you have the appropriate replacement that matches the previous air filter. After you are done setting the new air filter, put the cover back on. Do the same steps for all your ACs if multiple units are on your property.

Next up, if you have a unit outside your home, you should always ensure it is debris-free, clean, and unobstructed. Keep a 2-foot radius clear of any plants and obstacles around your AC. Obstructed vents will make your AC work harder than it should and will cause damage to your system over time. Lastly, check your thermostat settings and see if they are set to your desired comfort level. Consider using programmable thermostats to save you money in the long run. 

When to Call a Professional 

Although you can perform certain AC maintenance tasks, having a professional around is always best to ensure everything is done properly. Call for professional assistance in the following scenarios:

  • You observe refrigerant leaks
  • There are electrical issues
  • You hear unusual noises coming from your unit or witness other mechanical issues
  • You need major repairs or component replacement

Ensuring regular professional AC maintenance will prolong your unit’s lifespan, reduce energy costs, and save you money. It’s better to prevent damage and repairs from occurring rather than replace your unit entirely. Speak with an AC professional if you have any issues.

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